Beware of worldwide web pitfalls

By Roger Moroney

IN THE wake of putting together a couple of stories over the past week about scam emails popping up in Hawke's Bay homes, I received several real emails from other people who also had their electronic letterboxes invaded.
The general theme which came across was "how did they get our address?"
That's a good question - which I once put to a very computer-savvy detective who had investigated a fraud or three perpetrated via the internet.
He basically said that the ever-expanding monster called the worldwide web was ripe for the picking, simply because it has no boundaries, no absolute guarantee of security and meant a ratbag in Turkmenistan or Turkey could tap into someone's life in Taradale.
"Impossible," the officer said when asked about the chances of tracking the scammers.
For two reasons.
There were just so many of them, and they could effectively shift their "office" from one country to another with the push of a button.
No paper trail to pursue, just invisible electronic stopovers.
There was also the fact that no one polices the great electronic web. Oh yes, there are internet watchdog groups at work out there, but even they can't plug all the gaps or erase all the slime.
Because there are millions and millions of messages travelling every hour. And the moment the watchdogs plug one gap somewhere two others are breached somewhere else.
For scammers, having an essentially open, global marketplace for them to ply their trade is just about as wonderful as it gets. Email addresses are sent flying through the ether every second, all awaiting ambush by the scurrilous who somehow possess the knowledge to break into them.

No need to send their offers by mail any more (much easier to trace) because the internet is fast and impossible to pull the reins in on.
Apart from the usual unsolicited offers of free gifts, "you've won a prize" announcements and the availability of "enlarging" devices, I have even had spam emails from people with names I would never attempt to pronounce telling me I look "good and fine" on my Facebook page and could they be my friend.
Thing is, I don't have a Facebook page, and no, I don't want a friend in Nigeria who needs to deposit US$70 million somewhere safe.
Such unsolicited mail, scams and otherwise is, quite simply, an inevitable result of the great thing called the worldwide web.
And we know what webs do ... they snare and trap the unwary.
Scam emails will be with us forever, as will the advice from the watchdogs and police. If it sounds too good to be true then it almost certainly is too good to be true.
If the message is unsolicited then agree to nothing and don't open anything.
Remember, it is a very big web full of very unscrupulous two-legged spiders out there.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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